United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ROSHA C. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
SECURUS CORRECTIONAL BILLING, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.
A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History
On February 11, 2014, Plaintiff Rosha C. Williams, an inmate incarcerated at the Erie County Prison in Erie, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Securus Correctional Billing ("Securus"); Erie County Prison ("ECP"); and Deputy Warden Michael Holman ("Holman"). Plaintiff claims that he has been subjected to excessive phone rates at ECP in violation of his First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights. (ECF No. 3, Complaint, at Sections III and IV.C). In particular, Plaintiff alleges that he is "being subjected to pay $4.80 for a local call for 30 min, " while "inmates in the work release program [at ECP] only has [sic] to pay 50¢ for a local call." ( Id. at p. 5). As relief for his claim, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief in the form of an order requiring that inmates be charged "reasonable phone rates to be able to contact our family's [sic]." ( Id. at Section IV.C).
Defendants ECP and Holman have filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint [ECF No. 7] arguing that Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff has since filed a response to Defendants' motion [ECF No. 9]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.
B. Standards of Review
1. Motion to Dismiss
A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).
The Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp. , 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.
In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan , 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del. February 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). "This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556.
The Third Circuit Court has prescribed the following three-step approach to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal:
First, the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.' Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.' Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.'
Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc. , 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011), citing Santiago v. Warminster Twp. , 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947, 1950); see also Great Western Mining & Min. ...